April 18, 2004
BETHESDA, Md. – The Notre Dame baseball team’s record-setting 2004 season has featured a wide variety of heroes and another unlikely star player of the game stepped forward in Sunday’s series finale with Georgetown, as senior second baseman Zach Sisko launched a grand-slam home run to break a 5-5 tie in the 7th inning and send the visitors on to a 9-6 victory at Shirley Povich Field.
Fourth-ranked Notre Dame (30-5, 11-2 BIG EAST) has reached 30 wins quicker than any team in the program’s 112-year history, with the top-rated 2001 team holding the previous quickest-to-30 mark (in 36 games, 30-5-1). The Irish have built their record start with steady play on the road, going 19-2 in games played outside of Eck Stadium.
The Irish now are one of just four teams out of 287 in Division I baseball among the leaders for fewest losses (4-5), joining Texas (38-5), Stanford (29-5) and Albany (22-4) in that distinction. Notre Dame also remains atop the BIG EAST standings while the scrappy Georgetown squad – easily the most improved team in the conference this season – fell to 5-11 in league play and 20-23 overall.
Notre Dame’s 38 runs scored in the three-game series are its most ever in 78 all-time BIG EAST series, besting the 36 scored in a 2000 series vs. Pittsburgh (May 6-7). The Irish also scored 34 runs earlier this season vs. Villanova (now ND’s third-most runs ever in a BIG EAST series).
34 runs scored earlier this season in three games vs. Villanova at Eck Stadium.
The final 15 runs of the game all were scored with two outs on the scoreboard, including each of GU’s six runs. Sisko (2-for-4) was one of four Irish players who contributed two hits to a 13-hit attack (12 of them singles).
The Irish claimed an early 3-0 lead and then led 4-3 before Danny Gronski’s two-run blast pushed the Hoyas to a 5-4 lead in the 4th.
Freshman righthander Jeff Samardzija – who flew into the D.C. area on Saturday night, after participating in a spring football scrimmage – picked up the win in relief of junior righthander Grant Johnson, who was battling the effects of a stomach virus that limited him to just 3.0 innings. Samardzija (2-1) quickly erased the memory of his hard-luck loss vs. St. John’s on April 12 and overcame the Gronski home run (plus a later unearned run) to pick up the victory, with five strikeouts, no walks and six hits allowed in his 4.2-inning, 90-pitch stint.
Sophomore closer Ryan Doherty hit the first batter he faced but then retired the final four batters (two by strikeout) to register his sixth save of the season. The 7-foot-1 righthander now owns a 0.50 ERA and .086 opponent batting average (5-for-58) in 18 innings of work, plus 24 strikeouts and 7 walks. Samardzija also still owns an ERA under 1.00 (0.84) in 32.1 IP, plus a .158 opponent batting avg., 17 Ks and 9 BB.
Georgetown sophomore righthander Stephen Burns was nearing the end of his 101-pitch outing as he entered the 7th, retiring the first batter before junior first baseman Matt Edwards earned a full-count walk. Sophomore DH Matt Bransfield then walked on five pitches, bringing on righthanded closer Tom Braun. But the BIG EAST saves leader let the lead slip away, hitting sophomore rightfielder Cody Rizzo with a 1-0 pitch and serving up a shallow flyout before losing sophomore leftfielder Craig Cooper on a 3-1 pitch for the third walk (and fourth free base) of the inning, with Edwards trotting home for a 5-5 game.
The lefthanded-hitting Sisko – who went 5-for-10 in the series while subbing for injured classmate and All-American Steve Sollmann – then took the next pitch for a ball before driving a mid-plate fastball over the fence in right-center field for his first home run in limited action with the Irish (the HR came on his 59th career at-bat and 35th game as a fourth-year walk-on).
Samardzija started off the 4th with a strikeout and groundout (on a great play crossing in front of the second-base bag by sophomore shortstop Greg Lopez) before Matthew Johnson sent a single into center field. Gronski then fell into a 1-2 hole but sent the next pitch to left field, with the ball sailing above Cooper’s leap for Gronski’s fifth home run of the season and the 5-4 GU lead.
Cooper’s first-pitch single to center had sparked the Irish in the top of the 4th, with Lopez then beating out a one-out infield single to left side. Freshman centerfielder Danny Dressman brought home the fourth Irish run of the game with a clutch two-out hit, driving a 1-0 pitch through the right side.
The Hoyas forged a 3-3 tie in the 3rd, after Jim Supple’s leadoff walk, Gronski’s RBI single and a pair of two-outs hits from Ron Cano (double to left-center) and Billy Quinn (single to right).
Notre Dame entered Sunday with just a .224 first-inning batting average but the Irish enjoyed one of their most productive starts of the 2004 season, pushing across three runs after singles from Dressman (full-count to center), junior third baseman Matt Macri (first-pitch hit-and-run through the right side), Edwards (1-1 count through left side) and senior catcher Javi Sanchez (1-1 pitch into left). Sanchez fittingly delivered in the clutch, as the team tri-captain leads the Irish in both two-out batting and batting with runners in scoring position.
Note: due to a decision by Georgetown not to install active phonelines at Povich Field this season (unlike in 2002, when ND last visited), this weekend’s broadcasts again were provided via a special cellphone comrex adapter (ND baseball remains one of the nation’s few programs on commercial radio for the entire season) while GameTracker live stats were not able to be provided (this often is provided by the host school or by the ND sports info. office/und.com as a bonus service, when phone lines are available) … the lack of phone lines (or a nearby office) and the immediacy of the travel party’s return flight (which ended up being nearly two hours late into South Bend, capping an adventurous travel weekend for the Irish) also delayed in the posting of the complete game report … Irish fans are advised that next weekend’s games at Seton Hall and Pittsburgh also have limited phone lines and thus GameTracker road stats may not be available for those games.
UPDATED TEAM NOTES – The Irish hit .372 in the series while nine of the 10 ND position players who started in the series hit .385 or better over the weekend, led by 5-for-10 efforts from Sisko (6 RBI, 3 R, K, SF, 2 SAC, including a squeeze) and sophomore LF Steve Andres (3 RBI, 4 R, HR, 4 BB) plus three others who hit 5-for-12/.417: Sanchez (4 RBI, 3 R, 2 HBP), Lopez (3 RBI, 2 R, HBP) and Edwards (4 RBI, 6 R, 2 BB, 2 HBP) … Rizzo continues to showcase his great defensive ability in RF, with a pair of speedy catches in deep right-center and a bullet throw that nearly nailed a runner at the plate … Samardzija won an 11-pitch battle with GU’s Timmy Jones in the 5th inning, with the flyout to left field stranding a runner on second base … ND entered the week as the nation’s 16th-ranked scoring offense and now is averaging nearly 9 runs per game (8.94), which would rank 2nd in the program’s history and best since 1958 … the Irish have scored in 124 straight games, the 3rd-longest scoring streak in the program’s history (’30-’37) behind two previous streaks in the 10-year Paul Mainieri era (133 from ’95-’97, 231 from ’99-’02) … ND also has scored in 348 of its last 349 games and in 591 of 595 during the Mainieri era (99.33%) … Bransfield has hits in 19 of his last 22 games and 12 of the last 13 (his season batting avg. now is .333) … Sanchez has hits in 14 of his last 15 games (batting .325 overall) … Marci still has just 5 errors all season (.953 fielding pct.) and has not made an error in his last 14 games (47 chances), with just 1 E in his last 24 games and 80 chances (he has 30 total error-free games in ’04) … Lopez had 27 error-free games before making his 10th error of the season on Sunday (he made a tough backhand stop in the hole and then threw errantly, effectively creating his own error chance with the great play to even field the ball with a chance at a throw) … ND now has totaled 13 double-digit hit games (16 with 12-plus) … ND owns just a +38 scoring edge in the 1st-4th innings (114-76) but has dominated the 5th-8th to the tune of +126 (180-54, including 38-12 in the 7th) …ND is 69-10 in April during the past four seasons … Lopez pushed his team-leading batting avg. to .373.
#4 Notre Dame (30-5, 11-2 BIG EAST) 3-0-0 1-0-0 5-0-0 – 9 13 2
Georgetown (20-23, 5-11 BIG EAST) 0-0-3 2-0-0 1-0-0 – 6 9 0
Grant Johnson, Jeff Samardzija (4; W, 2-1), Ryan Doherty (8; SV, 6) and Javi Sanchez. Stephen Burns (L, 1-7), Tom Braun (7) and Michael Lombardi.
Home Runs: Danny Gronski, GU (1 on in 4th; 5th of season); Zach Sisko, ND (grand slam in 7th; 1st of season).
Doubles: Ron Cano (GU)
RD – 0.50, 5-58/.086, 24/7, 6 SV, 4-0, 18 IP
JS – 0.84, 32.1 IP, .158, 17/9
ZS-5=1-. 6 RBI,3 R, K, SF, 2 SAC
Nine of the 10 ND position players who started in the series hit .385 or better over the weekend, led by .500 efforts from Sisko and sophomore LF Steve Andres (3 RBI, 4 R, HR, 4 BB) plus three others who hit 5-for-23/.417: Sanchez (4 RBI, 3 R, 2 HBP), Lopez (3 RBI, 2 R, HBP) and Edwards (4 RBI, 6 R, 2 BB, 2 HBP)
DD 6-15/.400, 3 RBI, 4 R, 2 BB, 2 Ks
CR 4-10/.400, 3 RBI, 4 R, 2B, 3 HBP, K
SA 5-10, 3 RBI, 4 R, HR, 4 BB, 2B, 2 Ks
CC 2-5, 2 RBI, 2 R, BB
MB 5-13/385, 7 RBI, 6 R, 3 HR, 3 BB, HBP, K
hit .372, 4 Es/.964